Doctor To U.S.: "We Need To Eat More Feces"

Americans should have more poop in their diets, writes a doctor at Slate. Like superbugs and anti-bacterial products, we’ve become too successful at cleansing our food supply of all manner of contaminants—so that kids, for example, “have zero experience with routine gut infections, and when they encounter one that has slipped past our pipes and filters, the result can be catastrophic.”

A secondary problem is that the current trend toward a more nutritious, “natural” food supply, combined with modern distribution networks, means one bad batch of spinach or frozen patties can end up on tables all over the country.

Why is this public-health problem so difficult to solve? This is America, after all, replete with wondrously harsh chemicals that can kill anything. Why can’t we scrub away the bacteria our guts don’t get along with?

Maybe we are taking the wrong approach. Rather than trying to make our food and water ever cleaner, we should focus instead on making sure it’s dirty enough to assure our good health.

Rather than frantically throwing money at new ways to eradicate the pathogens that reside in shit, we should fund the boring scientists who focus on untangling the intricacies of the gut’s immune system. Labs, answer this: How much shit can we safely eat and, as importantly, how much must we eat to remain healthy?

Oh, and good morning.

“Eat Crap” [Slate]
(Photo: makelessnoise)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    Full agree as gross as it sounds. People are TOO clean these days and it is starting to show in so called “superbugs.”

    I thank god Doctors and the general public are starting to catch on the problem of anti-bacterial anything, and more importantly how you shouldnt be using strong drugs to get rid of run of the mill bacterial infections, but we still freak out over little things.

    Ecoli is one of those things I laugh about. Evidence has been showing the reason Americans as sick as they do these days from it has a lot more to do with how weak our immune systems are now, and a lot less to do with it being all over the place. While I would prefer my food not to have a dump taken on it, if properly prepared and cleaned Im not going to freak out if there is a tiny bit on it.

    I also still eat my meat rare, so take that as you will.

  2. bonzombiekitty says:

    I agree. We are way too sanitized now a days. Not only are we keeping our bodies from knowing how to fight certain bacteria when we come in contact with them, we are also creating stronger bacteria. Keep wiping every surface with antibacterial cleanser and you eventually you’ll just have a surface of bacteria that’s resistant to the cleanser.

    On top of that, we also over prescribe antibiotics. Too many patients insist on antibiotics for viral infections (like the flu), and too many doctors are willing to give it to them just to shut them up.

  3. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Yep, there’s definitely something to be said for exposing yourself to normal bacterial levels. As long as you don’t observe hazmat protocols in your house, you should be fine.

    I used to watch a lot of home-improvement and home-decorating shows, and the commercials on those channels were scary — Clorox wipes, Lysol wipes, “hard surface” disinfectant sprays, antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, and air fresheners that promised to kill “odor-causing bacteria” in the very air you breathed. There was one with a mother following her children around and disinfecting their toys as they played with them. Watching television can easily give you the impression that we are a nation of OCD sufferers.

  4. SabrinaFaire says:

    Um, yes, can I supersize that McShit Value Meal? Thanks.

  5. thewriteguy says:

    So… it’ll be good for me then if I eat these frozen chicken pot pies?

  6. Rahnee says:

    @ FALCONFIRE, Nothing like a good rare steak.

    Wipe it’s nose. Wipe it’s butt. Knock it’s horns off and walk it by the grill. I like it mooing and kickin the potato off the plate while I cut it.

    Maybe I’m keeping those super bugs away. At the least I’m keeping everyone else away from my plate.

  7. kimsama says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Haha, I think I know the commercial you’re talking about — it makes me laugh (I don’t think any of my toys were ever disinfected when I was a kid). I also love the one where it shows magnified germs literally dripping off of everything the children in the commercial touch.

    I have to agree that we’ve gone too far in the crusade against germs. I have some bad allergies, and there are theories now that immune derangements like allergies may be because we are evolutionarily designed to live with something constantly wearing the immune system down — intestinal worms, bacteria, etc — and when those aren’t present, our immune systems lack their mitigating suppression, causing derangements like eczema, allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly even biggies like MS.

    I guess that’s why my grandmother (who grew up on a farm during the depression) always says: “to be healthy, you have to eat a peck of dirt a year.” Thanks Gramma. You = smarter than science.

  8. armour says:

    @thewriteguy: Possiably lol. But seriously notice how take a vacation to some countries and drink the local water and get sick as a dog but the locals are none worse for the wear as thay have a tolerance. That no different then having a tolerence to the more common germs and bactaries in our enviroment that we removed our self from. Anti bacterial this anti acterial that clean clean clean your self to sickness.

  9. Bill Brasky says:

    This could change military chow as we know it! Shit on a shingle with REAL SHIT!!!

  10. Nighthawke says:

    You need bacteria? Go eat yogurt. It’s bacterial cultures will recharge your lower GI with the right bugs to help keep you ticking.

  11. Falconfire says:

    @bill51773: DAMN YOU… now I need some SOS. I love that stuff.

  12. catskyfire says:

    Think about it. If Little Billy tries to eat some dirt, Mom goes nuts. I’m all for appropriate cleanliness, but I can’t help but wonder if some of these hyper allergies kids are getting are a results of parents being too careful.

  13. Sooo…it’s now ‘Eat shit and don’t die’?

    Maybe if people let their kids play outside in the dirt and mud we wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough crap in our food.

  14. @Falconfire: “how you shouldnt be using strong drugs to get rid of run of the mill bacterial infections”

    The one thing that does need to occur, tho, before we stop getting drugs for minor infections, is the ability to ACTUALLY STAY HOME FROM WORK WHEN SICK without being penalized.

    Lots of people get minor bugs and if they could lie down for three days could get better faster and without drugs. But you don’t get to lie down for three days in America, so you get drugs and are miserable for a week and a half because you’re still working 9-hour days, but the drugs knock it out of your system for you.

  15. bustit22 says:

    The fact that many Americans go to places like Mexico and get sick from the drinking water, while the locals don’t suffer at all lends some credibility to the idea of a “healthly” amount of “bad” bactera.

  16. @catskyfire: “If Little Billy tries to eat some dirt, Mom goes nuts.”

    I live next door to this woman, lol. Her kid was trying to eat some potting soil (which is all sterilized and shit) when I was potting and I was just ignoring him because he wasn’t actively choking, and she totally freaked out and was all, “He’s eating dirt!”

    “Well, he’s going to learn that it doesn’t taste very good, isn’t he?”

    Sadly, no. What he learned is that putting dirt near his mouth makes mommy panic and scream, which is pretty hysterical when you’re two, so he did it over and over and over for the entire summer. She shoulda just let him eat it.

  17. VnlaThndr775 says:

    I just eat fast food. I’m gonna live forever!

  18. olegna says:

    This is why I love street food when I travel abroad. Eating a delicious taco from a stall in Mexico is better than eating poop. After 20 years of this I find I get sick a lot less from food exploration when I travel. I can almost remember the day of my conversion: after eating a mayo covered grilled corn on the cob with tortilla soup in Oaxaca in 1994 and spending three hours puking and crapping (at the same time!) I haven’t gotten sick again from street food . . . but there wre those pork dumplings in 2003 from an Upper West Side Chinese takeout place — but I consider that one my “booster shot”. Since then I’ve eaten off the street in the Middle East, India and Indonesia and haven’t gotten sick.

  19. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Germs are great. I get sick maybe once every two years while my germ-cleansing coworkers are always getting “the bug that has been going around.”

    My kid doesn’t wallow in filth, but some dirt and germs will make him stronger than his pansy friends who get sick every time they return from public places.

    This makes me think of the Chuck Norris joke about smoking 200 packs of cigarettes in one day and “catching” 12 forms of cancer, then flexing them out of his system.

  20. Falconfire says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: True, but I have to say I have been pretty good about that stuff… maybe its how I was raised (my parents played mumbly peg of all things… I mean how much dumber a game can you get than pulling a stick out of the ground with your teeth)

    I have to maybe take a day off of work for crap that will knock coworkers out for a week.

  21. Sudonum says:

    My wife is a clean freak. If a bug lands in her food she throws the whole plate out. You get the picture. She was brought up this way, has lived her whole life this way. She is allergic to everything. her immune system is shot to hell. And she simply refuses to believe me when I tell her this is why.

  22. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    I love my job, you come in visibly sick & they will tell your ass to go home. We had a mini epidemic 2 years ago that literally shut down operations for a week & a half, we’re talking 50-60 people. After that they have been very admant about it not happening again.

  23. alhypo says:

    I’m on board. The difficulty is that I don’t really want to know about it.

    Actually, I grew up drinking raw dairy milk, which does indeed have shit in it. So maybe I’ll be alright. Though I imagine the effect wears off after a while since I’m not being exposed to the latest versions of E. coli and such.

  24. moorie679 says:

    play in the mud, play in the rain, play with rusty nails, as long as I was not going to kill myself my grandparents would let me do whatever the hell I pleased and of course I got a lot of shit due to this very reason….. stepped on rusty nails, cut my self with broken glass, scraped my knee on the ground and even manage to head butt the corner of the sidewalk….. which my grandfather stitched back together with 10 stitches…..

    I don’t get sick very often, once or twice a year. Friggin love it. So could you pass the shit please to your left?

  25. Canadian Impostor says:

    This is why I sleep in a dumpster, well, this and my lack of money.

  26. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    I’ve been saying this for years. I went to pre-school when I was little. The place was a germ factory. There were not disinfectant wipes when I was 4. I got sick. But it was just a cold. Now, I hardly ever get the flu. If kids aren’t exposed to small bacteria, they won’t build up any immune system.

  27. TheJopker says:

    Eat shit and live?

  28. Hinomura says:

    It’s true. I’m a first-gen asian, my parents grew up in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia. Not once have I ever experienced or even heard of a relative having hayfever.

  29. hubris says:

    @e-gadgetjunkie: Suppose that’s better than going to preschool when you’re big.

    Seriously, this goes right along with my “we’re raising pansies” belief. I was pretty self-sufficient when I was kid and I got into all sorts of crap (figuratively and literally). Didn’t hurt that my mom was raised the same way and she’s a nurse, so if you’re not unconscious, she pretty much just told you to suck it up. I get sick *maybe* once a year, and it knocks me down for two or three days and I’m fine. All these people running around with constant faucets dripping from their noses and allergies. Bleh.

  30. Luckie says:

    I totally agree. My germaphobe friends get sick a lot more often than I do. Forget the five second rule, depending on where I am I might observe the five day rule. If a bug lands on my food, I shoo it away and continue eating. Working on construction sites without sinks means no hand washing before lunch. A little bit of caulk and sawdust never hurt anyone.

  31. Amy Alkon says:

    Behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk wrote a terrific (and witty and readable) book about this, “Riddled With Life.” I blogged her talk at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference a few years ago. She makes the point that we co-evolved with parasites and that we get rid of them at our peril.

    She also discussed the research of a guy named J.V. Weinstock on Crohn’s disease, which often affects Jews and Muslims — perhaps thanks to their religions’ prohibitions against eating pork. (Nutritional anthropologist Marvin Harris speculates that the prohibitions came actually because it was very costly to the environment in the Middle East to raise sows…yes, behind the principle is usually the money.)

    Anyway, J.V. Weinstock and his team found that giving patients a solution of pig whipworm in Gatorade (which doesn’t infest in humans but seems to kick-start the immune system) led to remission in Crohn’s in 75 percent of the participants in his study.

    More on this and related topic’s in Zuk’s book, which I recommend.

  32. BelBivDevolkswagen says:

    I recall something from my biology classes in college about the rate of allergies in Western countries – the higher the incidence of parasite infection, the lower the rate of allergies in a given country, and vice versa. I think that all these antibodies we have eventually start to attack ourselves because we don’t let them attack the hookworm or ecoli that we should naturally be infected by…

    So everybody go get hookworm!

  33. Trai_Dep says:

    Take kids camping for a week, and they’ll shed any notions of needing anticeptic conditions all the time or die. That’s what cured me, when I was a kid.

    Hey, as long as we’ve got so many germophiles here, lemme pose a question that my roomie throws in my face. It’s that factiod that a square inch of kitchen countertop has a gajillion more germs than the toilet seat. My reply is, “Sure, but different germs. Don’t sweat it.” Tackling him if necessary from nuking the kitchen w/ bleach, sanitary wipes, etc. That’s the flaw with that factiod, right? It seems to have sprouted like mad lately and it annoys.

    And, sanitary wipes do nothing against viruses, right? He stocks them in his desk during flu season (shared keyboard)? This one I’m keeping mum about, but it seems like another wives tale.

    I operate under five-minute rule for dropped food, so my immune system is hardy, thanks.

  34. cde says:

    Put it this way. I went two/three years without a mosquito bite, and the first couple of times I got bit recently, I swelled up like a grapefruit. My left hand looked like it was three times thicker then my non-bitten hand. But after 4 weeks of those types of bites, and a bit of benadryl to keep the swelling down, I only get the regular bites.

  35. lestat730 says:

    Kind of gross to think about this… Imagine if they started selling crap extract in dietary supplement capsules? I’m sorry but unless you slip me this dirtier food unknowingly, I’d just as soon take my chances will whatever illness may come my way.

  36. ichiban1081 says:

    My wifes cooking tastes like shit, does that count?

  37. aro says:


    you can starve then. no dinner for you tonight!

    -ichiban’s wife

  38. @cde: My mosquito bites always swell a lot and in weird shapes and hurt like Hell no matter how often I get bitten.

  39. SaraAB87 says:

    I seriously hope this isn’t a country where we sanitize as soon as a kid drops a toy on the floor, because that would be insane. Kids need to build up some resistance and to do that they need to be exposed to germs at some point before they go to preschool. If you don’t do this, you will have a kid in the hospital after their first few days of preschool, it just happened to a neighbor of mine. I also don’t think we should be using so much antibacterial hand sanitizer because you can build up a resistance to it if you use it 10 times a day. You really don’t need antibacterial hand sanitizer, I think most people can live without it just fine.

  40. mammalpants says:

    ive been saying this for years and people always called it a “fetish”.

    now that a doctor is into it, it’s science!

    im going on record now with my other theory…toes in an anus is good for preventing colon cancer

  41. @trai_dep: “It’s that factiod that a square inch of kitchen countertop has a gajillion more germs than the toilet seat. My reply is, “Sure, but different germs. Don’t sweat it.” Tackling him if necessary from nuking the kitchen w/ bleach, sanitary wipes, etc. That’s the flaw with that factiod, right?”

    Yes, but …

    The ones in your kitchen can include serious foodborne illnesses, depending on how diligent you are with meat handling, etc.

    Still, responsible food handling and a good hot-water wipedown so it’s visibly clean (if not microscopically clean) should solve 99% of the problem. And a “green” counter cleaner that has gentler cleaning agents (like citric acid to cut grease) means he can clean to his heart’s content and you won’t be eating and breathing creepy chemicals. (The one we use is food safe so you could, if so inclined, actually eat it.)

    @cde: “I went two/three years without a mosquito bite, and the first couple of times I got bit recently, I swelled up like a grapefruit.”

    When I worked as a camp counselor at an outdoor place in the woods, I simply stopped reacting to mosquito bites completely after the first several hundred in the first three weeks. It sucked when my “immunity” ran out and they became itchy again!

    (However, when one bit me on the lymph node behind the ear, even though I was “immune,” it swelled up like an egg and itched like a mofo!)

  42. Balisong says:

    Anyone remember the disinfectant (sp?) wipes commercials asking us to please donate wipes to our elementary schools? I don’t have kids but damn those commercials made me angry for exactly this reason. And I’m a germophobe!

  43. Trai_Dep says:

    So wait. You mean Senator David “Diapers” Vitter was right?!

    PS: thanks, Eyebrows!

  44. RandomHookup says:

    Part of the problem is that family size is down to almost 1 kid per couple. That means you can’t afford to have a few ‘mistakes’ along the way, so parents cover them in bubble wrap and wipe down with disintectant constantly.

  45. RandomHookup says:

    * or disinfectant.

  46. Fuck Lion says:

    George Carlin’s rant on the immune system is right on the money.

    “Besides, what d’ya think you have an immune system for? It’s for killing germs! But it needs practice, it needs germs to practice on. So if you kill all the germs around you, and live a completely sterile life, then when germs do come along, you’re not gonna be prepared. And never mind ordinary germs, what are you gonna do when some super virus comes along that turns your vital organs into liquid s**t?! I’ll tell you what your gonna do … you’re gonna get sick. You’re gonna die and your gonna deserve it because you’re f**king weak and you got a f**kin’ weak immune system!”

  47. SayAhh says:

    I thought we’re already eating enough feces: haven’t anyone watched/read Fast Food Nation? All kidding aside, while the suggestion of incorporating fecal matter into our daily diet is probably offered to drive the point home, simply replacing antibacterial products with their bacteria-friendly/neutral counterparts might just do the trick. Also, that’s why I longer take the “FREE” flu shots each year: I rather be sort of sick for a couple of weeks each year than getting SARS or something like it.

  48. dlab says:

    Finally I read something about food safety and cleanliness that totally makes sense.

    I hope the guy who was upset that my homemade mayo contains unpasteurized eggs reads this one. Maybe we wouldn’t be so prone to salmonella poisoning if we ATE SOME RAW EGGS every once in a while!

  49. vanilla-fro says:

    Awwww. baby mice.

    Anyway, I agree that we go way overboard on the disinfecting everything. I know we know more now about what germs and bacteria can do to us, but how is it that without this knowledge my grandfather lived to be almost eighty (with a bad heart since his twenties)? We just worry too much about it and clorox and lysol get fat pockets.

  50. vanilla-fro says:

    @Sudonum: I have one that way too. How can we talk them out of it. They’ll never believe this article at all.

  51. WV.Hillbilly says:

    I have to eat lots of shit at work everyday.
    Does that count?

  52. Anonymous says:

    well i don’t feel as bad now for putting a little piece of pooh in my coworkers chilli. as it turns out i was doing them a favor. lol

  53. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Sh1t. The other white meat.

  54. strathmeyer says:

    Fecal bacteriotherapy: []

  55. char says:

    A rare steak isn’t a danger for Bacteria, beef is dense enough that the bacteria is only on the outside of the meat, so you aren’t strengthening your immune system or eating live ecoli in a steak.

    Hamburger on the other hand, since it is ground, the bugs get all throughout the meat.

    The main issue I think, is that we focus our energies on the bugs that don’t matter, the stuff on your hands from playing on the slide, or just general living bugs. The stuff in our meat is pretty nasty though, caused by throwing off the PH of a cows stomach, then getting the shit on the meat during the careless slaughtering process. We should be fixing that step in process, not trying to sanitize every thing in our lives.

  56. Sidecutter says:

    This is pretty much in line with how I’ve thought of it. I mean, I clean things, but I don’t constantly clean and sterilize everything in sight. And guess what? I get sick once every3-4 years at most. Sure, I might get the occasional head cold or something that sucks for a few days, but when I say sick, I mean knocked the HELL down, laid out in bed for days sick. I havn’t used a sick day for actually being sick in over two and a half YEARS at this point. havn’t had but one Flu shot in about 5 years now, and never gotten the flu in that time. Heck, the flu shot, apparantly, doesn’t improve your odds, according to the doctors that have studied it…

    George Carlin is entirely right, Freaky Styley, the system needs practice.

  57. Hambriq says:

    There’s a theory floating around there that nail biting is an evolved trait meant to introduce bacteria into the body to strengthen the immune system. It’s an interesting concept, to be sure, but there was little evidence to support it. Mainly, I just use it as a justification for my own badly-chewed fingers.

  58. Raziya says:

    @Rahnee: QFT. Give me one of your steaks, please…sounds delicious.

    Gotta agree here, we’re really become way too obsessive about cleaning. The boy and I made a promise to each other that we’re not going to be those parents that are using anti-bacterial everything. You gotta get sick sometimes to build up those immunities!

  59. Good article and like most people’s comments I agree with it. I’m all about keeping our hospitals and similar places SUPER clean, but jeeze we are chipping away at our natural immunity.

    Of course normal handwashing and basic sanitary steps keep us from getting too funky!

  60. UpsetPanda says:

    I totally understand the need to be clean…I personally would not step within 10 feet of a person who hasn’t showered in a minimum of 2 days. I had a roommate in college who didn’t bathe, didn’t see the reason to do it…she wasn’t taught that basic hygiene was important. And when she did go to the shower, the soap would stay in the room. All she did was try to rinse the stink off, but the stink was still there. I’m pretty sure that the combination of stink and water made it worse, as a disgusting mold smell started to linger around her closet. We eventually got her moved to a different room, but it was a hellish 4 months.

    Point being? Showers are awesome.

    Aside from that, if a kid falls down and scrapes his knee, yes apply the Neosporin, but don’t get into a tizzy thinking junior is going to contract flesh eating diseases from licking trees or eating an ant.

  61. DTWD says:

    Make people eat the Frito bake at school.

  62. magic8ball says:

    I don’t think germs can develop resistance to hand sanitizer (i.e. alcohol gel). The jury is still out on “anti-bacterial” soaps AFAIK (studies are still under way) but ethyl alcohol is not antibiotic.

  63. HungryGrrl says:

    Nah, make people eat the 3rd-day-in-a-row tacos at school.

    I blame antibacterial surface cleansers. I’ve read that they actually are bad because they leave a residue that the .01 percent of germs that they don’t kill grow on and then you end up with superbugs.

  64. lockdog says:

    @RandomHookupI think you’ve more or less hit the nail on the head here. US child mortality rates (live birth to five years) in the early 1900s were about 20%. That’s one in five that would not survive to kindergarten. It’s not so much that lysol, antibiotics etc are letting us raise pansies, they’re keeping us from burying them. That said, my kid eats dirt all the time, just like I did.

    @Eyebrows McGee: I’m ten years out from my camp days (in the black fly belt of the Adirondacks, no less) and my mosquito immunity is still about 90% intact. The things can swarm my wife but they just don’t land on me.

  65. EtherealStrife says:

    I grew up eating daily fast food, and TONS of Mexican food (from dives in Santa Ana). My sanitary habits are also lacking. Salmonella infections pop up every 1-2 years, each less severe than the last. The only antibiotics I take are Jack, Cuervo, and Stoli.

    I think my germophobia died sometime during the many years of Boy Scouts I went through. There’s only so much sanitation you can carry with you.

    If you’re really interested in eating more feces, head on over to 31 flavors. When I worked there back in HS the local mice would snack on the ice cream cones, and leave chocolate sprinkles. Management wouldn’t let us toss the cones. . . .

  66. eelmonger says:

    I think there’s also a similar theory about kids picking their noses and eating it. The germs get caught in the boogers and then get very weak or die, then eating the boogers introduces the weakened germs to the system where your white blood cells can figure out how to kill them without having to worry about infection and such. It’s like a free vaccine.

  67. Anonymous says:

    I think the comments are more entertaining then then actual article. The free vaccine via boogers is a keeper for sure…

  68. Metschick says:

    The boy and I made a promise to each other that we’re not going to be those parents that are using anti-bacterial everything. You gotta get sick sometimes to build up those immunities!

    The funny thing is that out of my group of cousins and friends, my daughter is the one who gets sick the least, and is the one who isn’t encased in a sterile environment. Before she turned a month old, I encouraged her family members to wash their hands or use antibacterial wipes before carrying her. After that, it was open season. And you know what? She’s 2 1/2 and has been sick, really sick, just once. I also don’t seek antibiotics at the first sign of an ear infection, since I’ve read/been told that doctors over-prescribe that. And she’s had two ear infections, and both have lasted less than 48 hours.

  69. informer says:

    Ummm… I agree with everyone that anti-bacterial products are way overused, but the point of the flu shot is to expose you to the virus so your immune system can “practice” against it. You’re not doing yourself any favors by avoiding it (especially as far as SARS is concerned).

  70. S-the-K says:

    Um, so they’re saying that the guys who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom are doing us a favor?

    Um, no thanks. I’ll keep washing my hands and giving the skunk-eye to those who don’t.

  71. nancypants says:

    Shoot, no favors? If I get the flu shot, I will get sick. If I don’t get it, I have a pretty darned good chance of not catching it. Maybe working in a pharmacy has strengthened my immune system after all; I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely sick. I even avoided the cold from hell that every single one of my coworkers got this year.

    I feel like Superman.